379: “The Seeing of Patterns” (Adrienne Rich)

                “Theory—the seeing of patterns, showing the forest as well as the trees—theory can be a dew that rises from the earth and collects in the rain cloud and returns to earth over and over. But if it doesn’t smell of the earth, it isn’t good for the earth.”
                -Adrienne Rich, “Notes Towards a Politics of Location”

                Last Saturday I went for a walk through nearby Carle Park, a neighborhood green with tall trees. Oaks, dawn redwoods, catalpas, maples, walnuts, ginkgo bilobas, lindens, birches, firs, pines, magnolias, chestnuts, dogwoods, serviceberries (which I’d never met before moving here). The leaves are changing in Illinois, and—and how can I say it? “That color,” my friend said, pointing at one of the trees, “That color is so itself that if I were trying to describe it I wouldn’t use a metaphor.” The yellows, reds, oranges, persistent greens—the browns of the trunk, beautiful in their contrast, and the way these colors moved, shifted, fell and gathered on the ground. There were three trees in particular, tall like bits of cloud come to earth, yellow like themselves. Looking at them my heart felt as open as their branches, as light as their rustling leaves, as easy as the wind that trickled through them. Like a breath of air that went all through me.
                I want to walk, barefoot in the grass. 
                I want the kind of thoughts that settle and gather and wisp away like dew, and return to the earth, here or somewhere else, over and over.
                I love the idea that theory is the seeing of patterns. I want to follow patterns that smell like fallen leaves and deep earth and sometimes like my own body, unshowered so far this morning, and sometimes like the gingko’s fruit (even though it stinks), and sometimes like rain, and sometimes like the bergamot that grows wild here.

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